Biochar increases soil organic carbon, avocado yields and economic return over 4 years of cultivation
© 2020 Elsevier B.V. The use of biochar in avocado orchard soils has not yet been investigated in rigorous scientific experiments. We determine the effect of wood biochar on avocado growth, fruit production and economic benefit. Biochar was applied at 0%, 5%, 10% and 20% volume by volume basis. Biochar significantly improved the growth of avocado seedlings and increased fruit yield in the first three years after planting. There was an overall increase in soil carbon, fruit yield, tree diameter and height in all biochar treatments relative to the control over the seasons. Trees planted with biochar had 18–26% greater growth rates (in terms of height and stem diameter) than the control. Tree diameter was significantly greater with biochar (145.4 ± 3.3 mm) relative to the control treatment (125.0 ± 2.7 mm). Tree height was also significantly greater with biochar (3.7 ± 0.1 m) relative to the control treatment (3.4 ± 0.1 m). The fruit count from the biochar row was significantly greater (97%) in 2018. Heavy bearing trees typically have a lower yield in the subsequent year but despite this, the 2019 fruit counts were higher in aggregate for the biochar amended trees (20%) relative to the control. A cost-benefit analysis indicated that if yield surplus of fruit trees continued for three years, and assuming avocado prices remain at similar levels, then the discounted net benefit over a hectare would amount to US$8581, or US$105 per metric tonne of biochar applied.